Dear Roker Report,
Something you have written about plenty over the last few years is the experience fans have when attending the game, and I think it’s something most fans agree on as being pretty poor.
I work as a designer for a company who develops websites and apps based solely around the needs of the user, and aims to solve their problems and issues through research, interviews with users and listening to what they need and want. I feel this is an approach Sunderland needs to take with the fans and create a fan experience department in the club - something no other club has, that I am aware of, and would give the club the chance to focus solely on the fans and what we want and need.
Sunderland have one of the largest fan bases in English football meaning there is huge untapped potential for research to gather data on the fan experience through detailed surveys and some detailed follow up interviews with a wide demographic of the fan base. This would get fans input into the experience they’re having, problems they face and fans could have potential creative solutions to those problems. Some of these solutions would be hard and have a significant cost base, which would need to be longer term goals, but some solutions could be implemented on a shorter term basis. This would allow fans to have a say in what happens at our club whilst helping the club make real changes.
When I say experience I don’t just mean a few pyrotechnics and strobe lighting like wolves do, but it encompasses everything from the club brand, the food and drink, the stadium environment, marketing, ticketing, the atmosphere, the stadium music, the naming of stands, it’s literally everything.
Steps have been made to improve this like Charlie Methven’s comical David Brent moment in changing the music and the fans’ actions to improve atmosphere in the Roker End with a great flag display, but these attempts all feel disjointed and very separate from one another. If we had something like what I’m suggesting I feel it would go a long way to putting the fans first, like they should be at our club because it is OUR club, and by improving the fan experience it would not only make people want to go to games helping the positivity, which is sorely needed throughout the fan base at the moment, but it could potentially help our finances boosting ticket sales and concourse revenue.
Our club needs to be innovative in the fan experience department and if this were to happen it could be a cohesive unit of the club with one aim which is to put the fans first and could be something hugely beneficial in every department of the club to be proactive and take a different approach from the stale one we as fans have experienced for years. I believe fans in football should and need to come first and it’s something Sunderland haven’t done for years but this would at least be a step in the right direction to put that right, where no matter what happens on the pitch we could leave the stadium feeling like we’ve had somewhat of a good experience.
Editor’s Note [Tom]: Hi Matthew, thanks for taking the time to write this really interesting letter - I think this is a great idea. All aspects of the club need to be progressive and successful in order for the club to grow and improve. What you have noted is actually a pretty cost-effective way to potentially improve income streams, and if done right I think this could be valuable for the club and the fans. With the uncertainty surrounding the club at the moment, it might not be something that’s undertaken, but moving forward I think you’re absolutely spot on. Hope you’re safe and well!